TODAY   |  December 17, 2013

Judge: Some NSA surveillance unconstitutional

President Obama will meet with leaders of some of the nation’s biggest tech companies Tuesday about government surveillance leaks after a federal judge ruled that an NSA surveillance program was likely unconstitutional. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>> beginning to plan an appeal of a major court ruling . a federal judge says the nsa's massive collection of phone call data brought to light by edward snowden likely violates the constitution. nbc's justice correspondent pete williams has more on this.

>> reporter: president obama will meet today with the leaders of some of the biggest tech companies and one subject will be leaks about government surveillance programs. they will be meeting a day after the judge's ruling that one of those programs is unconstitutional. the ruling is a blow to an nsa surveillance program that gathers data about every phone call made in the u.s.. and saves in a massive database to be checked the government says when it has a terrorism lead tied to a specific phone number . civil liberties groups sued saying the government needs some indication of wrongdoing before it goes harvesting all that data.

>> this kind of program operates the other way around. it gives the government access to everything on the theory that something somewhere might be relevant.

>> reporter: the ruling departs from a 1979 supreme court decision that says people have no expectation of privacy in the records of their phone calls . that notion said federal judge richard leon has been eclipsed by technological advances. count the phones the judge said. giving the nsa to a vast amount of information it cooperate get three decades ago. but an expert on the government search power says the judge might have that wrong.

>> some n. some ways the telephone is a less important technology today.have that wrong.

>> some n. some ways the telephone is a less important technology today. than this was in 1979 . in 1979 , it was such a critical way of pby communicating.

>> reporter: the ruling comes from a judge appointed by president bush .

>> conservatives these days are also very anti-government. and very much anti- big government . and as a result, there is sort of a strange bedfellows between conservatives and liberals.

>> pete, let's stick with constitutionality to begin with. this judge basically overruled a supreme court decision that you mentioned from 1979 saying that americans have no expectation of privacy in the record of their phone calls . 15 fisa court judges have yip he upheld the constitutionality. so what are the government's chances of winning on appeal?

>> they're pretty decent. this is just one judge's opinion. what the critics would say of the fisa court rules, you had people coming in arguing the other side which is something the fisa court never heard.

>> and judge leon said the government basically didn't present one piece of evidence that shows that this program of checking of a this metadata has worked to prevent terrorism.